I sat in an aisle seat going and coming from New Orleans a couple of weeks ago. I was three rows back from the driver on a 56-seat chartered bus. Surprisingly, I was fairly comfortable throughout the 11-hour drive.
To draw a parallel, it can be very easy for us to do ministry from the aisle sea, comfortable even. In truth, I’ve probably practiced pastoral ministry most often from there. On the bus there are some benefits—greater freedom, ease of movement, and more leg room (at least one leg!). In contrast, the window seat offers a bit more privacy and a much greater view.
Eric Swanson and Rick Rusaw discussed such an analogy in a book entitled The Externally Focused Quest—Becoming the Best Church FOR the Community. It’s an excellent read on getting the church into the community. Incarnational or missional churches go to the people, not waiting for them to come to the church. They are focused on helping all believers live out their calling among people who do not yet follow Christ. Such churches are “window-seat” churches, as opposed to “aisle-seat.”
Churches tend to stay in the aisle. Aisle-seat churches are almost exclusively preoccupied with what is happening inside the four walls. After all, we are busy, and there are a lot of things to get done. The needs and issues that arise in a church’s life and ministry are demanding. There is so much to do, and we are busy doing it.
There isn’t anything wrong with this. In fact, there are times when there really is no choice. People and programs require attention. Someone needs to be in the aisle seat. Swanson and Rusaw remind us that the danger comes when we see life or do church ONLY from the aisle seat.
Window-seat churches have a focus that is external, and their vision extends far beyond the four walls. I want Mt. Carmel to be such a people.
There was a lot I missed riding in the aisle. But one thing I noticed for sure. The one driving the bus—the one with the best vision—the one who got us to our destination safely—he had a window-seat!
As pastor, I’m choosing the window-seat!
Question: What do you think Mt. Carmel or any church should do to impact the community? Where do we need to go? Who do we need to engage?